Posts Tagged ‘movie reviews’

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Train to Busan (2016)

March 22, 2020

Director: Yeon Sang-Ho (Psychokinesis, Seoul Station)

Starring: Gong Yoo, Ma Dong-seok, Jung Yu-mi

Anticipation Level: None

How Was It? There are movies I watch by myself and there are movies that I let my wife pick out when we want to watch something together. If you go through my film diary, you can probably guess when this is happening (“Miss Americana,” “Lost Girls”) I have to say… the last thing I expected was for her to pick out a foreign language zombie apocalypse movie that was already on my watchlist, but here we are.

*mind blown*

This was good! Nothing brings a distant father-daughter relationship together like a crisis of flesh-eating monsters! This could have been standard zombie fare, but we get plenty of fully realized and interesting characters, strong performances, and cool visual effects.

Strong recommendation.

Replay Value: It’s worth watching more than once, but I doubt that will happen for many years.

Sequel Potential: Sure, but hasn’t happened yet.

Oscar Potential: None.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

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Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019?)

March 18, 2020

Director: Celine Sciamma (Girlhood, Tomboy)

Starring: Noemie Merlant, Adele Haenel

Anticipation Level: High

How Was It? This might end up being an all time great love story. I’m not going to lie, the first 45-60 minutes I was thinking this movie was good, but not great – it is definitely a very slow burn – but the payoff is tremendous and the second half was explosive and phenomenal. The film has really stuck to me. I’ve thought about it a lot in the 24 hours since I’ve seen it.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a movie that manages to convey intense emotions without the use of a traditional score. In fact, music is only used twice in the whole film and when that happens it is people in the story creating it, not a film composer. It’s an interesting and effective tactic, as film scores are often used to dictate emotional response from audience. Here, everything is organic. Real. True.

I asked both my friends I saw the movie with which actress gave the best performance and we all unanimously voted for Adele Haenel, the gal that plays Heloise, the bride-to-be that is being painted and married off to some unseen rich Italian man. I asked the question because when subtitles are being read, it’s harder to pick up on the nuances of the acting on screen. But Haenel is so commanding, my “trick” question was met with swift and confident replies that aligned with my own opinion.

This movie is full of poetry and art. I’m positive it will take multiple viewings to appreciate to its full extent and it’s definitely a film I will be happy to revisit in the near future. With all due respect to Call Me By Your Name, I think this is the best film about passionate love in the last 5+ years. An absolute must see that pleasantly lingers hours after seeing it and might morph into a classic over time.

Marriage Story is an absolute must see movie with some knockout performances. It’s currently among my top 3 movies of the year and definitely has a chance to win the Best Picture Oscar. Check it out on Netflix streaming right now.

Replay Value: I was going to see it again last week, but, uhhh… the world is a different place right now.

Sequel Potential: None.

Oscar Potential: I’m confused. This movie was nominated for a Foreign Language Golden Globe but got zero attention from the Oscars. I just can’t believe this didn’t at least get a Best International Feature Film nomination and I have to wonder if it was somehow not considered a 2019 release by the Academy. That’s the only explanation I have.

9/10 (Sensational)

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January 2020 Movie Reviews

January 28, 2020

1917 (2019, theaters) – This movie is a technical marvel. It’s a war picture presented to look like everything was filmed in one shot (it wasn’t). I think it’s a cool concept and while I could spot certain times where they probably made a cut (e.g., the actors disappear behind a solid object so there are no moving parts on screen), I think they sold it really well. I would imagine some of these sequences still had to be extraordinarily long and that’s pretty damn impressive, both from a filming aspect and the ability of the actors to carry out the scenes convincingly.

The story follows two British soldiers during World War I. The duo is sent to the front lines to deliver a message to stop Britain’s 2nd Battalion from attacking the Germans, who are planning to ambush the 2nd Battalion. The character development in this isn’t a strength and I found myself not caring about what happened to them as a result. I may not have been emotionally invested in the story, but I was definitely blown away by how it was presented. The set designs in this film are unreal and I can’t help but think 1917 has a really good shot at the Production Design Oscar.

I could see people who don’t appreciate the technical aspects of films thinking 1917 is pretty meh, but I loved it and I think it firmly lands in my top 5 movies of the year.

8/10 (Must See)

21 (2008, Netflix) – I really liked the Ben Mezrich book this movie was adapted from and thought the movie did a poor job of bringing the story to screen, either because they left plot details out or changed too much. I just know I didn’t like the movie because I didn’t think it did the book justice. I’m judging this viewing based on the merits of the movie alone.

The plot is cool: a group of MIT students and their professor develop a blackjack card-counting system designed to avoid detection and take Las Vegas for heaps of dollars. I think they played up the allure of Vegas as some glamorous mecca a bit too much. Spacey delivers as the cold and calculated professor and leader of the MIT blackjack team, but I found the rest of the cast basically forgettable.

I guess it’s a good sign that my friends started the movie and I didn’t leave the room or turn it off after they went to bed. That’s something, but it’s also small praise for a mediocre movie overall.

5/10 (Decent)

I Lost My Body (2019, Netflix) – After witnessing a detached hand (similar to Thing from The Adams Family) fend for its life using a lighter against a pack of literal street rats, I knew I was in for something a little different. This was definitely an enjoyable movie with some pretty awesome animation and a quirky story.

The aforementioned hand escapes from a laboratory to reconnect with its body. The owner of the hand is a boy whose story is told through flashbacks, which ultimately reveal what caused his hand to be severed. This movie has a melancholic feel sprinkled with brief moments of hope as you can’t help but get sucked in by the hand’s unwavering determination to find its owner. This lends to some of the film’s most memorable scenes, including one where the hand has to cross a busy highway as shown from the hand’s perspective.

This weird, but cool little film was nominated for a Best Animated Feature Oscar. After Missing Link won the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature, I have no clue what to expect from the Oscars in this category, but I’d be pretty surprised to see I Lost My Body edge out Toy Story 4.

Although somewhat depressing, I Lost My Body was a breath of fresh air. Note: I accidentally watched the English dubbed version and the subtitles often didn’t match up with what was being said and that was kind of aggravating. I didn’t realize this is actually a French film, so if you choose to watch this on Netflix, I would recommend setting the audio to French and using English subtitles – the way it is meant to be watched.

6/10 (Recommended)

Judy (2019, rental) – I’ve enjoyed plenty of depressing films, but I did not enjoy Judy. This biopic was a bit shallow and unwilling to explore the roots of its protagonist’s issues.

The film is about Judy Garland (best known for playing Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz) during her final year of life as a struggling stage performer. I give credit to Renee Zellweger for her great performance as Garland, which is the highlight of the movie, but I just didn’t get into this film. Zellweger is wonderfully unrecognizable and dives deep into character, convincingly selling herself as an old-time celebrity trying to recapture the limelight while battling addiction and alcoholism and struggling to hold her family together. She also belts out some impressive songs.

I loved Zellweger’s performance. I did not love the movie.

5/10 (Decent)

Little Women (2019, theaters) – I’ve never read the classic novel or seen any of the previous film versions of this story, so I have nothing to compare it to and that might be a good thing. Judged on its own, Little Women impressed me due in large part to its compelling storytelling and ensemble cast. The film-is-a-coming of age story about four sisters during the Civil War. The timeline bounces back and forth between childhood and adulthood, so viewers are able to observe each character’s perspective at different points in their lives.

I was excited to see Greta Gerwig’s follow-up to her excellent Lady Bird and the cast looked exceptional. Unsurprisingly, the cast absolutely delivers. Saoirse Ronan is arguably the best actress under thirty. Ronan earned her fourth Oscar nomination in the last twelve years and it is well deserved. Pretty impressive for someone that hasn’t had their 26th birthday yet. Florence Pugh completed a trifecta of great performances in 2019 (the others being Fighting With My Family and Midsommar) and capped off her amazing year by getting an Oscar nod for this movie. I’m not even sure it’s her second-best performance of the year, but I’m definitely happy to see her get nominated… she deserves it.

I was enjoying Little Women for most of the run time, but the last act really brought everything together wonderfully and kicked my rating up a tick. It’s a fun film about people that only cements Gerwig’s status as a top-notch film director. I give Little Women a strong recommendation, but it’s definitely not a bro movie.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019, rental) – My first review for this movie wasn’t that favorable but a second viewing made a huge difference. Maybe it’s all about expectations? I’ve gone from wondering what the heck I just watched to loving this film.

The film is essentially about a washed-up actor and his stunt double as they attempt to rekindle their success during 1960s Hollywood. Previously, I thought the plot meandered along with no meaningful connection between the multiple storylines and the climax rubbed me the wrong way (and maybe it still does). However, now I can’t help but appreciate the sheer brilliance of everything that’s happening on the screen – from the unreal performances from both Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, to the ridiculously detailed old-school Hollywood set designs, to the music, to the wonderful cinematography. Also, there are multiple sequences in this movie that will probably wind up being iconic. I still think the ending of this movie is weird and probably disrespectful, but a part of me thinks it’s also kind of cool. There is also a notorious scene involving Bruce Lee. Disrespectful? Yeah, probably. Hilarious and awesome? Uh…yes.

I can’t think of too many movies that have grown on me this much with a second watch, but this is now one of my favorite films of the year.

8/10 (Must See)

Parasite (2019, theaters) – I had to watch this one twice before I wrote about it just to be sure that it was as truly great as I thought it was the first time. It’s official now: Parasite is my favorite movie of 2019 and it’s unlikely that anything I haven’t seen yet will top it at this point.

The plot is about a lower-class family that creatively (and unethically) deceives an upper-class family into hiring them for various service jobs. The film is just pure brilliance; it’s gripping, funny, surprising and beautifully filmed, all while acting as a commentary on the divide between social classes, plus the ensemble cast does a great (and mostly overlooked) job. Maybe the cast has been snubbed by American awards because Parasite is a Korean film and American audiences are spending a good deal of the movie reading the subtitles instead of watching the performances. You definitely can’t appreciate an acting performance to its full extent if you don’t understand what they are saying and your attention is elsewhere most of the time. I guess that’s understandable, but still… I thought the cast was great overall and, even without knowing the language, I could see that Kang-ho Song (poor dad), Yeo-jeong Jo (rich wife), So-dam Park (poor daughter), and Jeong-eun Lee (housekeeper) all gave standout performances.

I think Parasite deserves the Best Picture Oscar (although 1917 is probably the favorite) and the Best Screenplay Oscar (which should be a lock as anything else winning would be laughable).

Rarely do movies grab my attention from the opening scene and hold it until the credits roll. Parasite did just that and is possibly the only truly sensational film to come out of 2019.

9/10 (Sensational)

The Mustang (2019, rental) – This film proves that great acting and storytelling don’t necessarily need a lot of dialogue. The Mustang is most compelling when its characters are silent and let their actions/body language do the speaking.

The plot follows a long-imprisoned man who can’t connect in any meaningful way with people, including his daughter. The man forms an unlikely bond with a stubborn wild mustang after the man enters a rehabilitation program while doing outside maintenance at the jail. As the plot progresses, the man’s hardened demeanor begins to melt away and it becomes evident he desires rehabilitation for his issues. It’s a touching and sad film about growth, redemption, and life’s inevitable setbacks with solid performances from Matthias Schoenaerts and Bruce Dern.

The Mustang is a somber and satisfying drama worth giving a watch.

6/10 (Recommended)

Uncut Gems (2019, theaters) – This one has polarized audiences – people either seem to love it or absolutely loathe it. I was in the former camp, as I was entertained the whole movie and thought it was borderline hilarious, but not in the in-your-face kind of way an Adam Sandler comedy usually is.

The movie opens with Sandler’s character getting a colonoscopy and that’s by far the most relaxing moment he has in the entire movie. After that point, he’s nonstop on the go and the tension basically never lets up. This movie is about a foul-mouthed (Uncut Gems has the 7th most “F-words” in cinematic history according to the movie-review website Screen It!) NYC Diamond District jewelry peddler who bets big on sports and spends his life looking for ways to stay in action while dodging the loan sharks he owes. It’s grimy. It’s unsettling. It’s definitely disturbing.

Uncut Gems is much more subtle with the humor, possibly because a lot of the funniest parts are also a bit horrifying. I’ve heard this movie described as a two-hour panic attack and that’s not a bad description. But I liked it a lot and Adam Sandler is great in it. I’m not sure he got snubbed for an Oscar nomination, but I wouldn’t have found it alarming to see him get a nod.

I’m hesitant to recommend Uncut Gems because so many people disliked it, but if we have similar taste, you might find yourself enjoying this just as much as I did.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Yes Man (2008, Netflix) – This is a decent Jim Carrey movie that’s pretty similar to Liar, Liar in concept (wherein the main character is incapable of telling a lie) but not as funny. The film is about a recently divorced and withdrawn man (played by Jim Carrey) who is convinced to go to a motivational seminar. There, he reluctantly promises to say “yes” to every opportunity, request or invitation that presents itself. In sticking to this promise, Carrey’s character finds himself in unusual and amusing (if not predictable) situations.

Carrey delivers his usual spastic and high-energy performance, but the movie suffers from a weak supporting cast and uninspired plot elements. It becomes painfully obvious what will transpire as a result of the main character’s inability to “say no” during many scenes.

It was moderately entertaining while I was watching it, but Yes Man didn’t stick with me at all and was basically instantly forgettable.

4/10 (Forgettable)

Oscar nominated movies I will review in the future: Jojo Rabbit, The Two Popes, Ford vs Ferrari, Pain and Glory, Bombshell, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Richard Jewell, Harriet, Honeyland, Missing Link

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Queen & Slim (2019)

December 15, 2019

Queen & Slim (2019)

Director: Melina Matsoukas (Insecure, Master of None)

Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith

Anticipation Level: Strong

How Was It? Good. I had never heard of this movie until I saw the trailer for it and thought it looked fantastic. I liked the idea of modernizing Bonnie and Clyde by incorporating Black Lives Matter and police brutality into the story and thought there was a lot of potential for something great here. I have to admit I was a little disappointed as the film didn’t reach the highs I thought it could. I honestly think it peaked before the opening credits and the scene that sets things in motion is by far the most tense and impactful part of the entire film. And then there’s another two hours of movie to watch. I thought the writers did a poor job with Daniel Kaluuya’s character. For a movie that’s probably supposed to feel empowering for black folk, they sure have him making some really questionable decisions. I don’t want to spoil anything in this review, so I’ll just say… gas station scene… wtf… There were multiple moments like this (although this was the most egregious) that really took me out of the movie and had me shaking my head.

Overall though, I did like Queen & Slim. I’ve never seen Bonnie & Clyde, but this did remind me a lot of Thelma & Louise and I’ve always loved that movie. I think both leads did a good job. I’ve become a big fan of Daniel Kaluuya over the last few years. The writers did a really good job of building the relationship between the two main characters, taking them from a failed Tinder date and creating a bond that few couples could claim to have reached. Also, the soundtrack for this movie is pretty awesome (and includes the return of Lauryn Hill!). I give this movie a recommendation but I was honestly hoping for more. It didn’t hit me the way I was expecting it to.

Replay Value: Well, I’d rather watch Thelma & Louise for the 10th time than watch this for the second, so there’s that…

Sequel Potential: None.

Oscar Potential: There’s already controversy surrounding this film’s lack of Golden Globe noms – apparently the Hollywood Foreign Press Association didn’t even attend the consideration screenings – so it’s not likely to garner any Oscar attention either. While I think it’s garbage that the HFPA isn’t even watching the movie, I don’t really think the film is award-worthy myself; the script just isn’t good enough.

6/10 (Recommended)

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Marriage Story (2019): Best Picture Favorite?

December 13, 2019

Marriage Story (2019)

Director: Noah Baumbach (The Meyerowitz Stories, Frances Ha, Greenberg)

Starring: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson

Anticipation Level: High

How Was It? I’m not going to lie, this movie wasn’t even on my radar a month ago, but it didn’t take long for the hype to build and make me think there might be something special here. I thought Marriage Story was absolutely fantastic. It’s a tight little story about a family going through the divorce process as the adults try to pursue their careers on opposite coasts while playing tug-a-war with their only child. I could really feel the authenticity in everything that was happening – from the recollection of happier times to the disbelief that someone you used to love more than anything in the world could suddenly become your worst nightmare, the film rang true and will probably feel familiar to anyone that has been through a difficult breakup. I didn’t think there was a phony moment in this movie. Also, while it’s a tearjerker that will pull at your heart strings, it also made me laugh more than most of the comedies I’ve seen this year.

Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson give absolutely sensational performances. I was blown away by both of them and there were multiple scenes throughout the film where I was enthralled by their acting. They are already both nominated for Golden Globes and both are locks for Oscar noms also, with Scarlett looking like the favorite to win right now to me. Laura Dern is also great in this movie as Scarlett’s divorce attorney. I’ve always thought of her as the actress from Jurassic Park but after her work here and in Big Little Lies on HBO the last few years, it’s pretty clear she’s become an elite actress. She has a Globe nom for this movie also and is certainly drawing live at an Oscar nom as well.

Marriage Story is definitely a difficult and sad movie. I watched it while my wife was sleeping next to me and I was so moved by the film that I gave her a long hug of appreciation for what we have while thinking about how happy and grateful I am to have her in my life. Marriage Story is a good reminder to not take things for granted and to not autopilot your way through life, work, and your relationships. I’m not a highly emotional person and usually movies that have an affect on me just make my eyes water up a little bit, but this one actually made me spill tears.

Marriage Story is an absolute must see movie with some knockout performances. It’s currently among my top 3 movies of the year and definitely has a chance to win the Best Picture Oscar. Check it out on Netflix streaming right now.

Replay Value: Not really the kind of movie that people will want to watch repeatedly, but I think I will enjoy it again before Oscar season.

Sequel Potential: None.

Oscar Potential: Definitely. The film got six Globe noms in all and all three nominated actors will probably get Oscar nods as well. I’ll say a Best Picture nom is a lock and the movie should have a shot at writing, directing, and score noms.

8/10 (Must See)

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Movie Reviews: Hustlers, The Addams Family, Aladdin, and more

October 22, 2019

Hustlers (2019) – I don’t get it. This movie is at 88% on Rotten Tomatoes and has a 79 score on MetaCritic, with one critic even calling it “era-defining”, but I could barely stomach the whole film. It’s not an atrocious movie, but the characters are so hollow and the story so boring, I thought about leaving at multiple points to do something else with my day. Yes… a movie starring Jennifer Lopez as a stripper is somehow nearly unwatchable.
4/10 (Forgettable)

The Addams Family (2019) – Sometimes I go to the movies just to go and this would be one of those times. I’m not necessarily a fan of the old show or the movies from the ’90s, but I appreciate the dark humor and horror themes of the franchise. This movie was mostly forgettable, with Wednesday played by Chloe Grace Moretz providing almost all the highlights. It’s a decent first installment, but I can see eventual sequels being a lot better.
5/10 (Decent)

Aladdin (2019) – I suppose it works. The 1992 original is a top 3 traditionally animated Disney movie for me and I think this remake works largely as a function of the source material being so good. However, much like every other Disney live action remake so far save The Jungle Book it lacks the magic that made the original so special. Yes, the songs are all here and they are still great – even with some slight changes – but they just don’t feel the same. Asking Will Smith to live up to the vocal performance of Robin Williams as The Genie is an impossible task, but he actually does a fine job and certainly isn’t a negative in the movie. Something that absolutely doesn’t work for me in this movie is the casting of Jafar. It’s astonishing that a big budget company like Disney and a capable director like Guy Ritchie could actually think this version of Jafar is even remotely acceptable.
5/10 (Decent)

Ready or Not (2019) – This is a lot of fun, with a star-making performance from Samara Weaving. I wish they didn’t spoil some of the best scenes in the trailer, but I still found the movie plenty enjoyable. Weaving is hilarious and this movie is certainly worth checking out.
6/10 (Recommended)

The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019) – One of the surprise films of the year and arguably Shia LaBeouf’s best performance of his career, The Peanut Butter Falcon is a heartwarming story of a man with Down syndrome that runs away from his nursing home to pursue a professional wrestling career and finds himself making some unlikely friendships along the way.
7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Booksmart (2019) – I was expecting more… like one of the better movies of the year more. Instead, I found the far less mature Good Boys to be the more enjoyable Superbadesque raunchy coming-of-age comedy this year. This is still worth watching though and I think Beanie Feldstein has a bright future.
6/10 (Recommended)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part (2019) – A fine, somewhat worthy sequel, but everything about the first one was waaaaay better.
5/10 (Decent)

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The Lion King (2019)

August 29, 2019

The Lion King (2019)

Director: Jon Favreau (The Jungle Book, Chef, Iron Man)

Starring: voices of Chiwetel Ejiofor, John Oliver, James Earl Jones, Donald Glover, Beyonce Knowles, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner

Anticipation Level: Medium

How Was It? I was pretty bored watching this. Sure, it looks pretty amazing, but it’s not like I was itching to see a version of The Lion King with real animals. While the visual effects add a lot of wow factor, this movie is severely lacking in the magic and fun that made the original a classic – possibly because none of the characters aside from Timon and Pumba really stand out. Actually, Beyonce sort of stood out, but not in a good way; there were a couple of spots where her voice work actually made me cringe a little and trust me, I don’t really want to say anything bad about Beyonce. The coolest thing about this movie was Chiwetel Ejiofor’s voice work as Scar. He was awesome.

I really liked what Favreau did with The Jungle Book, but the live action Disney remake trend is already wearing thin and they’re not about to stop pumping them out. I think the only animated Disney classic I want to see a live action version of at this point is Pinnochio. The 2019 version of The Lion King isn’t bad – I enjoyed it for the most part – but it’s definitely nothing special and that’s pretty sad when you think of how wonderful the 1994 version is. I can’t think of any reason I’d ever want to watch this again. Give me the original 100% of the time.

Replay Value: I think I’ve already covered this.

Sequel Potential: Eek. They made two direct-to-video sequels back in the day and I didn’t watch either of those, but this movie $1.5 billion worldwide so…

Oscar Potential: Favreau’s The Jungle Book won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects so this should probably at least get nominated in that same category.

5/10 (Decent)

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Good Boys (2019)

August 24, 2019

Good Boys (2019)

Director: Gene Stupnitsky (“The Office)

Starring: Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, Brady Noon

Anticipation Level: Strong

How Was It? I thought it was absolutely hilarious and the kids are wonderful in it. Jacob Tremblay crushed it in Room with Brie Larson a few years back and proves that he has some serious comedic chops also. It’s funny reading the user reviews on IMDb because almost all of the most recent ones are extremely low ratings saying that the content is absolutely appalling. Sure. Maybe it is. But how does someone watch the trailer for this movie, decide to go see it, and then get offended by it? I’m guessing most of them never even watched it and just wanted to dust off their pitchforks. I mean… I sort of get it – a solid amount of the film’s laughs come from the kids handling adult sex props without realizing what they are and some of the scenes cross the line. Would I let my own sixth grader watch Good Boys? Honestly, I don’t know. I think it depends on the kid, but I don’t envision myself as the kind of parent that is putting strict parameters on the content my offspring absorb.

Ignoring the fact that this movie is putting child actors in some questionable situations (and if their parents don’t care, then I don’t care), I thought Good Boys was one of the most thoroughly enjoyable films I’ve seen in 2019. I was laughing pretty hard from start to finish and it’s not like this movie is a one trick pony – there is some emotional weight here. Think back to the end of your elementary school days and recall how many of your best friends remained your best friends throughout junior high… and high school… and so on. Good Boys made me laugh my ass off and then it made me sadly nostalgic, thinking about all the strong friendships I had as a kid with people I almost never talk to now.

My initial thought after seeing Good Boys was that it was my favorite movie of the year, but I’m pretty sure that was an overreaction. Comedies tend to age poorly for me, as they are never nearly as funny over multiple viewings. They need a little extra oomph to make turn them into something special. I’m not sure yet if Good Boys has all the ingredients to turn it into a comedy classic, but I do know I’d be happy to watch it again.

Replay Value: Probably won’t be as funny, but it’s worth multiple viewings in my book.

Sequel Potential: Superbad never got one, but since these kids are 12, there’s plenty of school years left for them to work with if the movie is a box office success.

Oscar Potential: None.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

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Movie Reviews: Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, The Farewell

August 14, 2019

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019) – I’m shocked at the critical reaction to this one: it’s sitting at 81% on Rotten Tomatoes right now. I thought it was extremely dull. I read and enjoyed the book this film is adapted from when I was in elementary school, but I didn’t experience much nostalgia while watching the movie because I only remembered one of the stories (“The Red Spot”). None of the characters or actors were particularly interesting and I didn’t find the movie even slightly scary. The overall narrative put together to connect the stories was fine, but I didn’t feel any emotional connection to anything happening on screen. I was mostly bored watching this and was looking forward to it being over. For comparison’s sake, I gave Crawl a 5/10 a few weeks ago, but that film was substantially more enjoyable than Scary Movies.

4/10 (Forgettable)

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019) – I’ve seen people say they hated it and I’ve seen critics call it Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece. I don’t really get either reaction. Usually I am giddy watching QT’s films and find them overwhelmingly enjoyable, but similarly to The Hateful Eight, this one didn’t fill me with pure joy either. I was actually pretty confused about my feelings on the movie the whole time I was watching it and even hours after seeing it, I still wasn’t sure. I know it’s not one of my favorite Tarantino flicks, but I also know I didn’t dislike it because… there’s so many good things happening on screen. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are amazing in it. The set pieces and art direction are meticulously put together and bring late 1960s Hollywood to vivid life. It’s plenty funny. On the other hand, the multiple plots seem to meander along without any real meaning before uniting in a strange and nonsensical climax. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it. Still, I’d be happy to watch it again… like right now. I feel like that speaks to the film’s potential to grow on me over time.

6/10 (Recommended)

The Farewell (2019) – Since most people will probably be unfamiliar with The Farewell, let me tell you a bit about the story: rapper/actor Awkwafina stars as a Chinese girl named Billi living in America that learns her grandmother is terminally ill and her family is planning a faux wedding for a cousin in order to go back to China and say goodbye one last time. Billi is being left behind because she is highly emotional and the family is worried she will tell the grandma that she is dying. Obviously, Billi ends up going to China anyway. I mean… this is great stuff. It’s one of the more personal films I’ve seen this year and the emotional impact is pretty high. I thought Awkwafina was a ton of fun in Crazy Rich Asians last year, but she proves she’s capable of being more than comedic relief by carrying this film on her shoulders and taking on a serious role. I’ve listened to her music and, well, she is waaaaaaaaaaaay better at acting. This is a touching film with plenty of charm and humor in it. There was a bit of a quirky Wes Anderson vibe to it and some of the slow motion shots of the family walking together as a group seemed out of place, but overall The Farewell is one of the most enjoyable movies I’ve seen this year.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Batman: Hush (2019) – It seems hard to mess up one of Batman’s best graphic novels, but DC Animation continues to do just that. This is better than the abysmal adaptation of The Killing Joke, but the writers take some interesting and questionable liberties with the story here and the end result is incredibly unsatisfying. I’m honestly not sure what they were thinking. Is it so hard to just do a faithful adaptation and not try to put a personal stamp on a well known story? I guess the main objective was to take a story that was written in the early 2000s and make it part of DC Animation’s current continuity of films, so this film takes place after the events of Son of Batman and Batman vs. Robin, even though the character of Damian Wayne wasn’t created until 2006 and thus didn’t exist in the original Hush graphic novel. The coolest thing about Hush was always that it involved so many key players in Batman lore and they all show up here and that’s a lot of fun. I’ve always thought Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute) is an odd choice to voice Lex Luthor and that continues to feel weird here. This movie was enjoyable, but I hate the big changes they made to the core story. HATE THEM. DC has announced they are making a movie out of my favorite Batman story: The Long Halloween. Here’s to hoping they don’t mess that up too.

5/10 (Decent)

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Movie Reviews: Midsommar, Toy Story 4, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Crawl, Child’s Play

July 26, 2019

Midsommar (2019) – This definitely won’t be for everyone. It’s director Ari Aster’s follow up to last year’s awesome Hereditary and it is every bit as unsettling and quite a bit weirder. Florence Pugh gives another top notch performance and already has two roles this year that could earn her some Oscar consideration. For the first half of this movie, I was enthralled, thinking it was one of the best of the year, but as it moved into its last act, I couldn’t tell if I was losing interest or if I was just shocked numb. I definitely preferred Hereditary, but Midsommar gets high marks for its gorgeous cinematography, crazy setting, over-the-top gore and a great acting job from Pugh. I recommend, but be warned.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable… sort of)

Toy Story 4 (2019) – Somehow Pixar keeps pumping out extremely good sequels to their first franchise. For me, Toy Story 3 was the best film of the series and a perfect conclusion to this saga and one of my favorite films of the past couple decades, but when Disney can print a billion dollars with every new entry, you knew it wouldn’t be too long before we got another movie… and this probably won’t be the last one either. I really enjoyed Toy Story 4. The story meanders differently than previous installments and Forky is an amazing addition. The animation looks as good as ever and while the movie didn’t quite meet my expectations of being mind-blowingly good, I can’t say I was disappointed either. I am looking forward to watching it again and seeing if I can find a more magical appreciation of it.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) – I really enjoyed this. It’s consistently funny, has some awesome action sequences, and the cast is great. Jake Gyllenhall is a nice addition as Mysterio and I liked the way that character was handled. This movie was extremely pleasing but I did like Homecoming more, mostly because of Michael Keaton and the amazing scene between Peter and Vulture before the dance. Far From Home doesn’t have a sequence like that and for a hero known as “the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man,” this version of Spidey has seemed to spend very little time in New York.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Crawl (2019) – If this movie doesn’t make you want to pack up your belongings and relocate to Florida, then I don’t know what will. This is basically Jaws in a crawl space with big ‘ole gators instead of a great white, so it’s not exactly breaking new ground, but it was pretty much exactly what I wanted and that made it entertaining enough.

5/10 (Decent)

Child’s Play (2019) – I was primed to hate this movie. How disrespectful is it to reboot a franchise when the original continuity is still producing new content? Series creator Don Mancini directed Cult of Chucky in 2017 and the original cast and crew are currently working on a T.V. series that continues the story of the first seven movies. So what the hell is this? Chucky is a just a highly capable A.I. doll that a disgruntled factory worker decided to flip the “bad” switch on? Eww. But somehow, some way, this movie works. It’s funny, it’s gruesome, and it’s pretty damn good. I’d… watch a sequel. *gasp*

6/10 (Recommended)

Bladerunner 2049 (2017) – There’s a lot to love about this movie – the cinematography and sound are unreal, Denis Villeneuve is a genius, Ryan Gosling is great, and the concept is really cool – but I just don’t get the Blade Runner series. I’ve heard plenty of people talk about the original like it’s an all-time classic and I’ve seen it twice now and both times I came away feeling underwhelmed. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it. I felt the same way about this sequel. It was good – fantastic from a technical standpoint – but the stories in both films didn’t move me at all. Maybe I just need to keep watching them until something clicks? The Blade Runner movies are really good, but I don’t think either of them are great.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)